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29 March 2012 | Angeline Albert
Swaziland's minister of health has told SM that he wants to stamp out the use of counterfeit medicines by introducing a National Pharmaceutical Policy to improve the country’s procurement of drugs.
Speaking yesterday, health minister Benedict Xaba said two health bills, the Pharmacy Bill and the Medicines and Related Substances Control Bill, will lay down guidelines for drug procurement, which includes ensuring quality assurance is achieved for medicines used in pharmacies and hospitals to avoid the use of counterfeit drugs to treat conditions such as HIV and TB.
The two bills are expected to have their first reading in parliament in April. The Medicines and Related Substances Control Bill will make possible the establishment of a Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), which will check that imported and exported medicines are safe, effective and of a consistent quality.
Xaba said he hopes the bills will become law within the next six months. “We face quite a lot of challenges in medicine procurement. We need to be sure of the efficacy of the medicine we buy. The country doesn’t have enough people working in purchasing that have the skills needed. Training is needed for purchasers. They need to understand the pharmaceutical sector and purchasing.”
Last year, the government department established a health procurement unit to focus on the buying of medicines and medical equipment for hospitals. “We need to improve medicine procurement and purchasing staff from the unit have been fully involved in drawing up the pharmaceutical policy,” said Xaba.
He said the country faced a proliferation of health practitioners who were not qualified and “dangerous sham medicines” were being offered to the sick. An essential medicines list was needed, he said, to ensure procurement of effective medicines to address priority illnesses in the country such as HIV, AIDS, TB and malaria.